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Reincarnation of the Dykstra Family Blog
Chad Dykstra - 2014-06-03

Comrades is Coming!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-04-29

Melkam Gena!
Chad Dykstra - 2013-01-07

Why I Run
Chad Dykstra - 2012-10-03

It's All About the Injera
Chad Dykstra - 2012-03-09

Expectations and Reality
Chad Dykstra - 2012-02-15

I Remember
Chad Dykstra - 2011-10-25

A Summer of Firsts
Chad Dykstra - 2011-09-13

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Let the Insanity Begin!

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-16
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Let the Insanity Begin!  I will start by saying that considering we have 4 kids between 3 and 6 speaking two different languages, things are going really well!  We are able to communicate with the boys in a reasonable manner...although there are definitely times I wish I knew exactly what they are saying.  The boys are behaving well overall.  I'm not expecting it to stay this way forever - I suspect there's some form of "honeymoon period" that we're in where the boys are still getting used to their new surroundings.  Zinabu is starting to settle down a little bit when we need to discipline him. Instead of "time-outs", they suggest with adopted children giving a "time-in" or forcing them to sit on your lap for a period of time.  Initially he would cry about it for over 45 minutes!  As of now, we are down to 15-20 minutes.  Slow and steady progress!

Abi has been a great "big" sister and is very loving and considerate towards the boys.  For example, if one of them gets hurt, she'll bring them a stuffed animal to make them feel better.  We're very proud of what a big girl she has been.  Ben still doesn't know quite what to think about all of it and definitely seems to be acting out/acting up to get attention.

We went to the doctor Tuesday for the first time.  Both boys had been running a fever over the past few days and we just wanted to get them checked out.  It turns out between the 2 boys; we have three ear infections and one case of pneumonia.  Sheesh!  Antibiotics all around.  Starting at the first of the year (when the flex money refreshes!) the boys will be on a first name basis with the doctor.  We'll start if off with blood work (or "the works"), vaccinations, stool samples (3 each), and dentist appointments.   We'll definitely be spending quite a bit of time at the doctor's office in January and beyond.

A couple things that have really surprised us with the boys are food and clothing.  The boys are very picky in what they will eat, and also what they will wear.  They will rifle through the clothes drawers, turning everything upside down before eventually insisting on wearing something that is short sleeved and/or way too big for them.  Today Abatu is wearing a short sleeved shirt and pants so big that he has to hold them up when he walks.  Zinabu is wearing a blue striped turtleneck with grey sweatpants.  We'll probably have to move all of Ben's clothes downstairs just to make sure they don't have the option of pulling them out of the drawer.  They also have a real thing for shoes, and want to wear them all day long.  We can't get them to take them off in the house.  I think we'll need to get them some slippers.

In regards to food, they really like bread and fruit and would eat it all day if they were allowed to.  Believe me - they ask to.  We had to move the fruit off the counter yesterday and into the pantry to get it out of sight out of mind.  They also like honey nut cheerios and have each had 4 (kid-sized) bowls this morning.  We finally had to cut them off.  When it comes to lunch and dinner time, however, they're incredibly picky and it's very hit or miss if they will eat anything at all.  Even American kid staples like hot dogs and mac & cheese.  They seem to enjoy more "traditional" Ethiopian treats, like popcorn with sugar and tea (also with lots of sugar).  Maybe there's a theme there.

Next week, I go back to work!  Fortunately I work from home, so if anything big goes down I'll be here to help.  It's a short week and then I have off again between Christmas and New Year's.  Here's to hoping that doubling the amount of kids in the house doesn't negatively impact my ability to work from home, and that the boys understand that even though Daddy's home, he needs to be left alone!

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Home Sweet Home!

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-12
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Hooray, we're home!  And we can finally post pictures!  smiley  There were moments where the trip home was very difficult, but all things considering, it went remarkably well. The boys were real troopers and went through 25+ hours of travel on only a few hours of sleep.  They did especially well in the airports.  Going through customs and immigration was a breeze.  They stood right by our side and kept up remarkably considering the fact that we were rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off to make sure we didn't miss our connecting flight.  Right off the bat, our flight (was supposed to leave) Addis at 11:59pm - several hours after the boys' bedtime.  Over the next 30 hours they'd get no more than 4-5 hours of sleep total.

As well as the trip went, it wasn't without its' struggles.  Before we left our guest house, Zinabu was running a fever approaching 103 degrees.  Both boys have been sick for a few days including a pretty nasty cough, fever, and diarrhea.  For Z, this came to its' peak about an hour before we had to leave for the airport.  We gave them some medicine and it seemed to make them feel a little better after the first flight.  The largest struggle that we faced, though, was right away on our very first flight.  At first click, the seatbelts weren't an issue at all.  After 15 or 20 minutes, Zinabu realized what the seatbelt actually was and didn't like it very much.  Didn't like it very much is...well...a little bit of an understatement.  When we would try to put his seatbelt on, he would scream at the top of his lungs, kicking and flailing around.  This could only be described as a total meltdown.  This happened 3 or 4 times on the first flight.  After 3 times, I wasn't sure I could take any more.  Zinabu wasn't the only one crying at this point - I was too.  We tried to enlist the help of an Ethiopian man who spoke Amharic to explain what it was and why he needed it.  I don't think he completely understood what we were asking, because he just disconnected his seatbelt after talking to him and walked away. We re-connected it, and another meltdown ensued.  This was about the point where I wasn't sure I would be able to make it home.  After 3-4 times, it was like a switch went on and all of a sudden he didn't mind the seatbelt.  We got him to put it on himself, and the entire trip there was only one other instance where he resisted putting it on at all.  What an amazing answer to prayer. 

The flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis was very long.  It was an entirely daylight flight, and the boys really didn't sleep at all.  At one point we had to separate them - I changed seats with Z and moved between them. I think any siblings being confined to two seats for 9 hours would start to get on each others' nerves.  Let's face it - a flight this long for adults can be tough.  Overall, though, this leg of the trip went really well.  The only tears or fussing we ever saw were with about 20 minutes to go in the flight.  Zinabu started to feel sick again I think (it's hard to know for sure when you don't understand what they are saying!).  Eventually he did fall asleep just as the plane was descending into Minneapolis.  He was awake within a few minutes as we started to go through Customs and Immigration.

Our flight from Minneapolis to Grand Rapids was the one Delta flight of the entire trip that was on-time and actually even arrived a few minutes early.  Up until this point, I was definitely starting to believe that Delta was the armpit of all airlines.  I still might be convinced of this - we've had a less than stellar experience with them throughout this entire trip.  Both boys were able to sit by a window on the plane and get their first views taking off.  This was especially fun for them.  Abatu did catch a little sleep on the last flight. 

We were glad to be back in Grand Rapids on time and were warmly greeted at the airport by friends and family.  Thank you to everyone who was there to greet us - it was very special to see everyone there and to be able to introduce the boys.  We're so appreciative of all the love friends and family have shown - especially over the past month.  We appreciate it more than anyone can know!

Life will definitely be challenging over the next few months.  Right now we're working through the language barrier and the boys still being sick.  They've done great with the 8 hour time change and haven't had any trouble sleeping at night.  They are adjusting to a new house, a new climate, a new family, a new time zone, being restricted to car seats - pretty much new everything.  Abatu seems to be bullet-proof through the whole process and is always smiling.  He did cry once after a fight with Zinabu when he was hit pretty hard with a metal toy truck.  Zinabu is having a little harder time with it all.  I think part of it is his personality, and it may also be that he is sicker, or that he is older and is grieving the loss of his previous life a little more than his younger brother.  There's no doubt the boys have gained a lot being brought into our home - but they've also lost a lot.  Everything they've ever known, in fact.  I'm sure that it's a very difficult transition for them.  As we work through it, we have to set and reinforce limits that have been set in our house for a long time - especially with Zinabu.  We've already had to discipline him for constantly playing with light switches, A/V equipment, and the gas dials on the stove (ack!).  It's difficult to "baby-proof" your home from an inquisitive 5-6 year old.  It can only be done through education and discipline - both of which are difficult, especially due to the language barrier, and will take time.  I'm confident that with time, though, we'll get there! 

Today is Christmas decoration day!  Abi has been ready to get the tree up since we first walked in the door. We'll have plenty of time to enjoy the decorations this year, becuase we probably won't make it out of the house very much.  We've been thinking about getting out today to pick up a few necessities - still thinking that one over.  We won't be able to stay here forever!  :)

Thanks for following our journey!  We appreciate all of you more than you know! 

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A New Chapter About to Begin

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-09
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Our chapter in Ethiopia is quickly drawing to a close!  As we drove around yesterday, Zinabu would say "America" any time we would see nice buildings as we were traveling around Addis Ababa.  I was explaining "not yet!  Ety-op-ya."  That new chapter is almost here!  We're packed up and checking out.  This morning we will do a little shopping at the market, pick up the Visas for the boys, and then grab lunch.  We'll finish up our last afternoon in Ethiopia, then head back to the airport for the long journey home.

For friends and family who are interested, we will be having a "meet and greet" at the airport in Grand Rapids on Friday afternoon.  Our scheduled arrival time is 4:55pm on Delta flight 1662 from Minneapolis - we'd love to see as many of you as possible there.  This will be your one opportunity to meet the boys for quite some time(or at least see them, they may be sleeping).  Once we return home we're going to spend several weeks under the radar as everyone adapts to the "new normal".  Thanks for all your love and support!  We'll really miss Ethiopia, but we can't wait to get home!

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Hangin' Out

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-08
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We have been together for 2 nights now!  So far everything is going how we had hoped it would.  Zinabu and Abatu are both very happy little boys.  They have been sleeping well at night and we're able to communicate enough to get by.  I'm still working on my "essential" Amharic - getting a list of words and phrases necessary for children, such as bathroom, what is this, come here.  There are also those more specific to active 4-6 year olds...sit down, calm down, be careful!  I would like to continue to learn Amharic.  I think it would be special if when we return sometime to visit their family, they would still be able to communicate with them.  It won't be very likely that I could learn Kambaata (their native language) because there aren't any resources out there for learning it. 

Speaking of language, we had a funny language experience last night.  I had been sitting on the couch studying my Amharic sheets, and Abatu walked up to me and said something in Amharic.  One of the words he said was Zinabu and pointing at him.  Zinabu was holding some bubbles that we have only asked him to play with outside.  I said "Abatu, are you saying that Zinabu is playing with the bubbles inside?".  He shook his head yes.  Everyone proceeded to bust out laughing, in amazement that we had this beatuful conversational moment.  For a minute or two Lora actually thought that I understood him.  Of course I was just assuming, and Abatu was probably just shaking his head yes.  :)

In 2 nights, we still haven't seen tears from Abatu and only one time from Zinabu.  We get lots of smiles though, which is a great alternative!  The boys have the cutest little smile that just melts your heart.  They share toys well also.  There are still boundaries that they need to learn, like not digging through our bags to find what they want or grabbing anything that they'd like to play with.  They do a good job in the bathroom by themselves but the bathroom at the orphanage didn't have a toilet seat and they flusher was out of their reach, so we need to retrain them to put the seat up and to flush when done.  As well as things are going, we will definitely have our hands full!  Zinabu is every bit as active and inquisitive as we had expected.  Every time one of the social workers, nurses, nannies, or doctors says his name, they laugh.  His reputation definitely precedes him.  Even the security guard at the US Embassy said "Hello Zinabu" when we walked out.  We're still trying to figure that one out!

Our U.S. Embassy appointment was yesterday afternoon.  That was a little different than we had expected.  It's a little more like going to a bank teller or ticket counter.  There's a nice American man standing behind a big sheet of bullet-proof glass who goes over some paperwork with you, has you sign a few forms, and asks a few questions.  In 5-10 minutes, it was finished and we were back outside playing.  The Embassy was like being in the US.  It was a very nice building with a drinking fountain and a bathroom that would have been capable of flushing the toilet paper.  The small things you take for granted!

Today we will go to the Morning Coffee guest house where we stayed last time we traveled.  We are going to have lunch and then we will have the opportunity once again to meet with our sponsored child from Yelzelalum Minch and the sponsored children from some families in our church.  We will take a few pictures of them and distribute the gifts that sponsor families sent with us.  We have one more night in Ethiopia!  Tomorrow we get the Visa required for entry into the US, and then we fly out tomorrow night!  In 48 hours, we will be in Amsterdam on our way home.

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Monkeys, Hippos, and Together With the Boys!

Chad Dykstra - 2010-12-06
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After leaving the visit with the family in Halaba, we stopped in Awassa for the evening.  On Sunday, we went to a park where we were able to feed monkeys and take a boat ride to an area where hippos were lounging in the water.

Originally, we were all strong and were NOT going to feed the monkeys.  The Bethany travel packet says not to feed the monkeys.  It took all of about 30 seconds for all of us to cave.  Before long, they were sitting on our shoulders and eating from our hands.  Sorry, Belinda!  Not to worry, nodobdy got hurt.  I didn't feel too bad, because we have a picture of our social worker with a monkey sitting on her shoulder.  :)

The hippo boat ride was a neat experience.  We all wore life jackets and it's understandable why.  The boat was taking water on about as quickly as they could bail it out.   As Alan Jackson says, however, "You can't beat the way an old wood boat rides".  We went about 3 miles by boat to the hippo lounging area, took some pictures, then headed on back.

We have been able to take a few pictures of all of this, but it's limited because the batteries on both of our cameras are now dead.  I have a spare battery for my main camera, but unfortunately I packed it in our luggage, which still has not arrived.  As you can imagine, we are extremely tired of wearing the same clothes.  We are now on day 5. We're just hoping that they arrive before we leave.  We really don't want to bring all of our donations back home with us!  They tell us tomorrow might be the day we get our luggage.  They told us that yesterday, too.  Thank you, Delta! The other families and several of the Ethiopians here have been gracious enough to lend us all some clothes and for other things, we've done a little shopping.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to approach Delta on this issue, please let me know!  We better be getting something good out of this ordeal.

Another downer about no luggage is no camera chargers.  Both of my cameras are now dead.  I have a spare battery for my main camera, but it's in the luggage with the charger.  Fortunately today we found another family who is traveling that had a Nikon camera that used the same battery.  I took his spare battery, and gave him my dead one.  He's going to charge me up and get me back in business.  What a blessing!

This afternoon was the goodbye ceremony at the orphanage.  All of the children who are adopted were dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothing.  They had cake, pop, and other students sang them a song.  We played for a while, and then time to go!  We have been back at our guest house with Z & A for about 30 minutes.  Things have been going great!  I am trying to learn some Amharic words and so far that has been going well.  I'm glad that I have at least some aptitude for foreign languages.  The boys are very happy and fascinated by every aspect of their new surroundings.  Their friend "M" is here also, who we found out on our family visit is actually not just a friend, but is a second cousin to A & Z!  The best part - he is going to live in Holland!  A & Z will have family just a few minutes away.

We're excited for what the next few days are going to hold.  It's surreal to step off the bus and walk down the driveway to the guest house holding A & Z's hands.  No more orphanage.  No more visits.  No more leaving without them!  As one of our friends here said..."Hey, guys, we're no longer people that are going to adopt!  It's finished"!  We aren't exactly finished...tomorrow is our US Embassy appointment.  After that, then we are finished.  Two day wait for a Visa for the boys to come home, and we're back on a plane on Thursday!

PS - due to the fact that I haven't been able to blog in a while and for length purposes, I split this most recent blog into two entries.  Be sure to read the next one down - "A Visit to Remember".

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